Mexico's ruling party changes campaign strategy

AP News
Posted: Apr 09, 2012 8:49 PM
Mexico's ruling party changes campaign strategy

The candidate of Mexico's ruling party retooled her presidential campaign on Monday, promising a more aggressive strategy to win undecided voters and adding new members to her campaign team following a series of missteps in the first week of the race.

Josefina Vazquez Mota, who is trailing Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party in the polls ahead of the July 1 vote, blamed the campaign problems on divisions within her National Action Party that have been overcome with Monday's "course correction."

The 51-year-old's campaign has been marred by poor logistics, late-starting events, a speaking gaffe and a dizzy spell that interrupted one of her speeches.

Vazquez Mota, who is seeking to become Mexico's first female president, won her party's nomination in a primary even though most analysts considered rival Ernesto Cordero, the former finance secretary, as the preferred choice of outgoing President Felipe Calderon and the party establishment.

"I have demanded that the party leave behind all internal conflicts and that once and for all we work together for victory," she said.

She said that Cordero and other Calderon allies, including his sister, have joined her campaign and said the internal strife was now "part of the past."

"She is trying to have all of National Action behind her ... (especially) those close to Calderon that didn't support her during the primary," said Macario Schettino, an analyst and professor at Monterrey Technological Institute.

Her campaign will now focus on undecided voters, about one-third of the electorate, and it will have the input of foreign campaign advisers who have worked on the successful election bids of female candidates, she said.

Last Monday, Vazquez Mota felt faint during a speech and had to interrupt her address and sit down to continue. The campaign dismissed the episode as a brief spell of low blood pressure, but images of her looking ill dominated television news for several days.

Then, in what was seen as a strange attempt to demonstrate her good health, the 51-year-old candidate allowed a TV crew to film her morning workout at a hotel gym, commenting to the camera as she exercised on an elliptical machine, did sit-ups and lifted weights.

Days earlier, she misspoke during a speech and said she planned to "strengthen money laundering" if elected. The next day, a campaign rally had to be called off because of a nearby picket line of striking airline workers - a cancellation her staff blamed on poor planning.

Vazquez Mota canceled campaign stops Saturday in Veracruz and instead conducted a strategic planning and evaluation session to find ways to strengthen her campaign.

She said her strategy will now be more aggressive and she will address every criticism from her opponents.

"Not a proposal, not a criticism, not an argument from our opponents will be left unanswered," Vazquez Mota said.

She also outlined three themes she said will guide her campaign: education, security and a strong internal economy.

The economist and former secretary of education said that if elected president she would follow a different approach to fighting crime but did not give details.

Mexicans have become weary of Calderon's assault on organized crime, which been accompanied by violence that has left more than 47,000 people dead nationwide since he deployed thousands of federal police and soldiers shortly after taking office in December 2006.

Polls suggest that Mexicans will return to power the PRI, which had a stranglehold on the presidency for seven decades being ousted by the Pan in 2000.

Mexico limits presidents to a single six-year term.


Associated Press writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report.